Johnson hails UK’s ‘new beginning’

Friday, January 31, 2020
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AP

Brexit supporters hold signs in Parliament Square in London, Friday.

LONDON (AP) — Britain begins the day as a member of the European Union. Its status at the end of the day — as a proud nation that has reclaimed its sovereignty, or a diminished presence in Europe and the world — will still be up for debate.

The EU will have to bounce back from one of its biggest setbacks in its 62-year history to confront an ever more complicated world as its former member becomes a competitor,  just across the English Channel. 

Britain officially departs the EU at 11 p.m. local time Friday, midnight in Brussels. The departure comes 3½ years after the country voted by a margin of 52%-48% to walk away from the club that it had joined in 1973.

It’s the first time a country has left the EU, and many in the bloc rued the day. In Brussels, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen lamented that “as the sun rises tomorrow a new chapter for our union of 27 will start.” 

But she warned Brexit day would mark a major loss for the U.K. and said the island nation is heading for a lonelier existence. “Strength does not lie in splendid isolation, but in our unique union.” Newspapers across the continent were marking the departure with headlines of “Adieu to Europe” and “Bye-Bye!” next to a Union Jack flag. 

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was holding a Cabinet meeting in the pro-Brexit town of Sunderland, in northeast England. He is scheduled to deliver a pre-recorded address to the country an hour before departure, calling Brexit “not an end but a beginning.”

According to his office, he will describe it as “a moment of real national renewal and change.”

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